Monday, January 27, 2014

The International Court of Justice in The Hague has ruled….

…and Peru has triumphed….sort of. The dispute between Peru and Chile involves territorial Pacific Ocean fishing rights. What the court did was issue a surprising compromise verdict. Peru has more water than it had, but less than was expected. Chile has less water than it had but more than expected. This Reuters article presents a good background on the issues involved.  Most observers had expected a ruling totally in Peru’s favor. The Chilean government had announced that it was prepared to offer its fishing industry compensation for lost fishing grounds.

Peruvian news media are at the moment attempting to put a positive spin on the verdict, but early reactions from Chiclayanos are not so positive. They wanted nothing less than total victory over their old enemy. Intellectually Chiclayanos know that Chile’s and Peru’s economies are tightly linked, and that Chilean investment in Peru amounts to many billions of dollars, but emotionally the resentment against Chile dating to the War of the Pacific (1879-1883) still exists among the old and young.

Last year in Chiclayo’s city hall there was a photo exhibition of Chiclayo’s history. One of the photos showed Chilean solders in the city…a fact most Chiclayanos are not aware of (Chilean forces were also in Paita, Chimbote and Lambayeque). Facial and vocal expressions of attendees in reaction to that photo were deeply and strongly emotional. Maribel’s comment…”The _ _ _ _ _ were in Chiclayo!!” was representative.

Ask a Chiclayano why they still resent Chile over a war fought 130 years ago and the answers generally are that “they took our land” and “they took our boat.” Peru did lose a large chunk of territory as a result of that war, but perhaps the most visible reminder of defeat is the ship Huàscar located in the port of Talcahuano and open to the public as a museum. Chiclayanos regard the ship with reverence as the place where their most beloved war hero, Admiral Miguel Grau was killed in battle. Peruvians view the refusal to return the ship and using it as a Chilean museum as a deliberate insult.

It will take some time (if ever) to implement The Hague’s ruling. It will be interesting to see reactions over the next few weeks, and what if any problems result from the implementation.

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